Tag Archives: meditation

Where Do We Begin?

Today, like many others, I am walking on the razor edge of complete despair and profound hope. Deep in my heart I am trembling with fear that tomorrow Mubarak will order his thugs to massacre any protesters. In my bones I am certain–just as the quivering voice of Salma speaking from Tahrir Square declared–that if Mubarak remains in office until September (or November as PM Shafiq later mentioned) many Egyptians who had the courage, nerve, and dignity to demand their human rights will be rounded up, tortured, and imprisoned–if not assassinated.

How have we created such a world? How is it that so many of us move along happily ignoring the numerous injustices plaguing the planet. I just cannot stop caring. Where do we begin to build peace? Where do we begin building cultures and societies that simply do not allow such atrocities to take place. This is not an Egyptian crisis, nor is it simply an Egyptian uprising. This is a global crisis and in my opinion it is a very private crisis too. All I can come up with, all I can grasp, is this: We must each make it our foremost duty to actively build peace in this world. I’m not talking about going to Yoga class and claiming bliss–I mean action. Action at home, action at work, action in our communities. Each one of us holding ourselves accountable and honestly reflecting on our own behavior, choices, and thinking.

This massacre is not being carried out by Mubarak alone but by many people. There are the thugs, of course, who have fallen in love with their power and have lost touch with their humanity. Hell-bound sycophants who eagerly assault unarmed innocents so that they may hold their grip on their positions. Some people enable the massacre by hiding away in their flats and growing revolution fat. Others enable the brutality by leaving the country and trying to forget about the chaos. Further away, some of us simply ignore the atrocities and justify our apathy in various ways: I am so busy, I have my own problems, that’s just a crazy part of the world and I don’t get it. LOOK INSIDE YOUR HEARTS!!!!!!! What is there! Aren’t you aching for this man above?! Aren’t you aching for Egypt? Aren’t you aching for this entire human mess? Look into your heart and pull aside that dark curtain that prevents you from seeing, from feeling. Look inside your heart and recognize–finally–that there you CAN create infinite space and hold within it every being on this freaking planet.

I cannot stop caring and I am praying that you will have the same affliction.

In honor of the brave Egyptians protesting in the dangerous streets, I am reposting this article so that you may be aware.

Here are the signals I picked:

Omar Soliman claimed the youth in Tahrir now are NOT those honorable ones on 25th! ( A BIG LIE )

Then all int’l reporters started getting calls to leave the square tonight ‘as gov. Can not guarantee there safety!!!’

And all live camers (at least from one side of tahrir have been confiscated!!)

Earlier the military police stormed the Hesham Mobarak center for human rights (not related to Mubarak) and detained at least 24!!

And a probaganda plan started about a foreign groups behind the protests continuing till now!!

I feel They are keeping (who are the foreigners! behind it?) open so they choose later who will not side with the reports after massacre is over by the mafia of Mubarak (US cia or HAMAS or Israili intelligence)

I tried to suggest protestors now to be aware and hide or leave and choose another form of protesting NOW suddenly like hanging a black cloth from each balcony but idea was turned down



Will you begin caring now? Will you look into your heart? Will you make this commitment to yourself and to your community? We must begin building peace in ourselves and doing that requires us to look into our hearts and realize that it DOES hurt to witness atrocities. It is our duty to bear witness, it is our duty to care, it is our duty to take action.

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Breaking the Fast

When my husband and I were living in Cairo we had many crazy, fascinating, and maddening experiences. The best way to describe living in a culture, environment, community that is so foriegn (linguistically, socially, economically) is “culture shock therapy.” The brain is jolted into submission or further madness by the constant assault of differentness. One can be flexible and plastic (as we are biologically inclined to be) or one can cling desperately to the patterns of thinking and feeling laid down by his or her home culture. How did I respond?

Well, at first I was thrilled by it all. The call to prayer was magical! The chaos was enchanting! The people were mystifying and lovely.

Then I was tired.

Then I was pissed off. ARG!!! “What is that smell?”  I once asked my roomate as we were walking to a friend’s house.

“I stopped asking myself that question a long time ago,” she quipped. Indeed.

Then, I started carrying mace with my finger on the trigger and my other arm draped across the front of my body with my elbow poised to jab. Do I sound like a monster? Well, to give you some insight, I took on the mace after being grabbed on two different occasions on the street. First, in broad daylight I was grabbed from behind by a police officer; he grabbed my tit and twisted my nipple!!! Incredible precision! As if he had had substantial practice! The second “twister” (same technique, I wondered if there was some sort of underground workshop on grabbing techniques) took place on the first night of Ramadan on a very busy midan  (traffic circle). That one left me shaking, terrified, and distraught. This is war. An acquaintance of mine armed me with mace and I spent the next several months hunkered around it, deeply suspicious, poised to defend myself however necessary. I was miserable. It was as if I was protecting my body from being nationalized! This is private property, people! “But you are foreign, and he was confused because you were wearing short sleeves.” ??? Heh? “Kelly habibty, it happens to girls all the time but we do not say because if we do then people will say, ‘that’s the girl who was grabbed, she is not nice.'” And so, I tried to wrap my head around this…how did I fail to make deeper connections with the Egyptian women I worked with, went to school with, or saw around town. So poised for battle, I shut down.

What happens in life when we are so committed to a prescribed and predetermined series of inputs and outcomes? In the above context I operated–with little intervention from the frontal lobe–on the assumption that any male movement in my direction was an instance of imminent sexual assault. Until one day, again during Ramadan, I was shaken awake and deeply humbled by a random and silent exchange.

I was in a taxi headed somewhere in Zamalek. It was late afternoon and the sun was soon to set. For those of you who don’t know, during Ramadan much of Cairo is shut down as millions fast–no food, water, or cigarettes–during the daylight hours. Once the sun sets millions sit down for the iftar–breaking of the fast. Cairo is a brutally hot, densely populated, and chaotic city. Even in the back of the taxi, I was holding tight to the mace and still with my elbow ready for jabbing. That’s when it happened. The taxi was creeping along in the packed traffic when I saw an arm reaching into the back window. I panicked and prepared to dose the guy with a good eye washing but was caught by the grace of observation: He was handing me a bag of juice…to break the fast. He was out in the street giving passers-by bags of juice to break the fast. To him, I wasn’t a foriegner, a hussy, or something to be grabbed…I was a member of the community and he was reaching out to me in fellowship. My entire body gasped…and my brain changed…I know it did. And my heart grew…that stranger…with his bags of juice for breaking the fast…who didn’t even take pause before moving on and handing another stranger some juice…initiated a dialog with me that established a bridge between the deep patterns of habit and the unbound possibilities for connection when we dare to move against or away from our practiced ways of seeing, being, and living…even though there is risk (there is always risk–stasis does not eradicate risk)…

It took a long time for me to process that culture shock–perhaps I am still–but one thing I know is this: The conversation is dynamic between an individual and her environment and just as it would be absolutely absurd to respond in a conversation with your friend with the same one line, it is absurd to respond to life experiences with the same old line. To be engaged in this narrative with others, our environment, our religions…requires creativity, expression, and risk. This is what I think. What about you?

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Hearing the Swami’s Voice

The first time I met the swami I was constipated. That banquet of red meat and Cairene heat had brought my middle to a complete standstill. Nothing was moving. Although I was excessively flexible, my packed guts prevented me from side twisting and inverting my triangle in asana class. It was only after I failed to reverse my triangle that I admitted to the swami—it’s been ten days since I’ve moved anything at all. He invited me back to his room where he had some ayurvedic medicine. There, he also had a Sanskrit English dictionary, several strands of mala beads, a few candles, a picture of his guru and an empty but made bed—where I was invited to take an acupressure massage. This is the scene in which I spread myself out on the bed of a man who is practicing brahmacharya. I have walked into the monk’s private quarters.

The swami was a small and very nimble man with long and lean muscles, a clean shaven head, and a gap between his two front teeth. He was handsome with intense eyes and a tight little body. He pushed his thumbs into my lower abdomen and invited me to ask anything I wished. And so I did. Now, I don’t remember my questions but only that with each I further submitted. Perhaps he will show me how to leave behind—to cast off—the history that contains me, strangles me, and haunts my sleep. We will begin with the muscles and ligaments and sweep out the memories lurking in the deep fibers. We will preface the beginning by irrigating the gut.

“Tonight you will say ‘The swami is trying to kill me,’ but I am not.”

I walked through the back alleys toward my motel in a daze. There my temporary roommates—who I’d met only a few days before—were sitting on the front balcony chatting away. The greeted me kindly and I rubbed my middle “Oh girls, I don’t know about this!”

Very soon I was on the toilet, breathing deeply—trying to thread my breath through the intestines and into my root. And then it broke. Ten days of red meat and what else evacuated my middle. “Is everything okay in there, hon?” asked Jenny in her Liverpool English. She lit a stick of incense and kept an ear out to watch that my moaning didn’t shift into an SOS. It came and it came and it came. Pot after pot I flushed out the sludge. My head hot with fever, my skin chilled, my entire body perspiring, I gave birth to a rotten bulk of my past and abandoned it.

“Hey,” I called out from the bathroom, where I was still bent in half on the toilet, “You should take a picture!” The girls burst into laughter, relieved I wasn’t going to turn into a cumbersome corpse they’d have to deal with on their vacation.

Later, in bed, the swami’s eyes had me transfixed. They were all I could see. When I closed my eyes, he was there. When I left them open, he was there. Just like that, emptied and filled I fell off to sleep between the clean crisp sheets dressed in a tank top and panties.

The next morning I moved slowly as I prepared for asana class. As I wrapped my black and red striped sarong around my waist and over my black leggings Jenny said, “I like your new look, hon!”

“You must have lost five kilos!” said Sara. It was bizarre but I felt light, elated, and acutely aware.

“Cheers girls!” I said as I left our room and headed out to class. The Arabian Sea was calm and there was a slight breeze. The smell of nagchampa and masala chai wafted from the beachfront cafes. I was eager to see the swami, it felt as if he was inside my body, outside my body, and present too in between. There are three fields of vision—inside one’s mind, outside one’s body, and the place of visions; no matter where I shifted my attention the swami was there. As I walked toward the class I experimented by first focusing my attention inside: Namaskar! He seemed to be saying. Each vision gave me the sensation of a sort of spiritual wink. As if the swami was tipping his imaginary hat at me. A sort of psychic peak-a-boo—heavy on the boo.

The asana class was held on the roof top of a hotel that overlooked the Arabian Sea. We started each morning at seven am. When I arrived only one of the two disciples from Latvia was there, Vidya. I greeted her and smiled. She nodded while trying to relax a grimace. She cooked for the swami, she cleaned his robes, and she followed him around the subcontinent. She never spoke, she leaned to the left while she meditated, and she wore her hair just a quarter inch past clean shaven. Vidya—was the name that swami had given her. Vidya: spiritual wisdom. I loved her and respected her and she just wanted me the hell out of her traveling ashram.

“Don’t kill the mosquito! The mosquito has karma!” insisted the swami. The mosquitoes and their karma were hovering like vultures. Vidya and Lakshmi (the other Latvian) surrounded the practice space with coils of incense intended to ward off the insects. We each took our space—an undercurrent of greed filled the air as the students competed for the spot closest to the teacher. We all settled into padmasana and finally, the swami sang, “Om sahana vavatu, sahana bhunaktu, sahravayem, karava vahey, tajus vanedamastu, ma vadvasavahey! Om shanti shanti shanti-ay! Hari ay om!”

His voice penetrated my body. It was rich, strong, and multidimensional. We moved into our asana practice and I left my thoughts alone.

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